Thoughts on Christian Culture 3: What’s LOVE Got to Do With It?

ID-10029312

Image courtesy Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Everything, actually.

*For the commandments…are summed up in this word; “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.* ~Romans 13:9-10 (ESV)

Love is a topic that has continually made itself at home in my mind for more years than I care to admit. And, the more I consider what it ought to look like, the more I have to admit that we human beings tend to have a very skewed, self-centered understanding of what it means to love someone. Not everyone, of course…and not always. But, even the most dedicated disciple of Christ probably struggles to perfectly live out genuine love for their neighbor at some point.

If I’m understanding scripture properly, Love involves acceptance, honesty, kindness, patience and forgiveness. It affirms the value of all human life. (re 1 Corinthians 13).

It is not limited to just the things/people we like a lot. Nor is it entirely synonymous with the attraction involved with a romantic connection. It is not primarily an emotion, yet affects the emotions. It is not primarily action, but motivates our behavior. It is not primarily about what we can get to make us feel “happy”, but what we ought to be giving to ease the burdens others must carry.

Love is more a state of being, which empowers us to set aside selfish desires and focus on contributing to the eternal well-being of another person. For instance, love always should encourage others to pursue a vital relationship with Christ. It does not take pleasure in seeing others suffer (even if they might “deserve” it).

Love is protective in nature, and would never knowingly encourage someone to sin or approve of sin as a beneficial “lifestyle option”. In fact, love should be willing to do the unpopular thing and risk being hated for pleading with an individual to rethink any potentially devastating choice they may make. It doesn’t force people to stay against their will, yet will also welcome back those who repent of their mistakes and truly wish to engage in a God-centered relationship.

When we say “I love you” to someone, it should in some way reflect the pure, honest and unselfish nature of God.

This is just me thinking, again. I appreciate input from others, if anyone is so inclined.

Advertisements

Don’t Kick ’em While They’re Down

This is interesting.

Zechariah 1:14-15 (ESV) So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘Cry out, Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion.
15 And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster.

Me: these verses are a partial answer made by God to the question posed in v 12. “How long will You be angry and withhold mercy from Jerusalem and Judah?” (Paraphrase).

The Israelite people of Zechariah’s day were experiencing the predicted disciplinary response for having turned away from following God (read Leviticus 26:27-46). Specifically, they would be subjugated by the surrounding pagan nations whose ways they chose to adopt in spite of receiving strict instruction to the contrary.

Verse 15 (above) indicates that the civilizations which the Hebrew people were subjected to took full advantage of the national disgrace of the Israelites…that they actively abused the people in a way that far exceeded the authorization God had given them.

~~~~~~~~~~~~
It left me thinking that God is always good to correct us and allow us to experience the well-earned results of our disobedient choices…for our good, to encourage repentance.

And sometimes, the temporal consequences we bring on ourselves are extremely unpleasant, to say the least.

However, it is a very bad idea to recognize that someone is being chastised/humbled and take it upon one’s own self to add a greater load of pain or shame to their burden through mockery, looting of their possessions or physical abuse.

Liar, Liar (2)

ID-100211556

Image courtesy Stuart Miles @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Well, it appears I had time to finish my thought today, so I’m just going to briefly refer back to my earlier consideration, as it lays necessary groundwork for what I’m about to suggest regarding a biblical understanding of what it means to be a liar.

  1. The Bible pronounces a pretty harsh judgment upon liars.  See Revelation 21:8. Also, 1 Timothy 1:8-10 speaks of the law in relation to the “unjust”, and lists liars among them.
  2. However, the Bible also declares that we are all liars (Psalm 116:11). I’ll try to remember to come back to this in a bit.
  3. The act of telling a lie indicates a degree of separation from the fellowship with God..whether due to open rebellion (pride), fear, ignorance or hidden malicious intent.
  4. Some people appear to either not know how to tell the truth or they just do not care that their words are unreliable or deceptive. This can create serious trust issues.

Introducing a few more angles

  1. There are several incidences of lying in Scripture which actually appear to be blessed by God (ie. Abram told his wife to tell a half-truth about their relationship in order to protect his own life…see Genesis 12:10-20 and 20:2-18; midwives lied to Pharaoh in Exodus 1:15-20; Rahab the prostitute lied to protect Israelite spies in Joshua 2, 6:17-25 etc.  Link to cited passages is HERE.  While I do not believe it honors God to make a practice of deceiving others, I must acknowledge what the biblical record actually says.  There is a possible explanation for this, but that is a different discussion for a different time.
  2. At least two people in the NT are said to have been struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit (God) rather than to another human being. (Acts 5:1-11)  Lying to God is a serious offense. And we can’t fool Him anyway, so why bother trying?
  3. Lying in general is discouraged in scripture, since it is identified with the “old”, unregenerate nature (Leviticus 19:11; Colossians 3:9).
  4. Lying to other people can create some serious interpersonal conflict, in spite of the fact that God has the ability to work things out in the end.  The Rebekah, Isaac, Esau, Jacob, Laban, Leah, Rachel fiasco of Genesis 25-33 comes to mind, here.

 

 

Two more verses that help me to better grasp the definition of “liar”:

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19

Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 1 John 2:22 (ESV)

 

Circling back to point 2 of my review, regarding the fact that we all are counted as liars: It is not even in God’s nature to lie (see related verse, above). But everyone who has been cut off from Him has this tendency.

There is a solution, but only one solution, by which we may remedy our inherently wrong state of being.

My conclusion:

The liar that scripture condemns to the lake of fire/hell is the one who adheres tenaciously to the Romans 1:21 perspective that God is not actually good and/or that there is a better way to attain knowledge and wisdom than to gratefully submit to His beneficial claim to authority in our lives.

According to scripture, a liar is one who internally denies that Jesus of Nazareth is the Anointed Savior of creation and thus remains cut off from a relationship with God as their source of life.   At this level, it does not matter whether my mouth makes truthful statements all day long if my heart rejects Christ Jesus as God’s perfectly righteous and merciful mediator.  And this lack of relationship can take the form of a non- or pseudo- Christian religion or secularism, so long as the individual remains primarily dependent upon his/her own ability to direct the course of their own life.

The solution:

The Bible instructs us to be reconciled with our Maker through belief in the One He sent expressly for that purpose. We refer to this phenomenon as repentance and receiving of forgiveness for our sin of unbelief/rebellion. It is a simultaneous turning from an attitude of self-reliance and toward one of dependence on God’s provision.

This restoration will not only give us hope for something better beyond this mess we now know as “life”, but it will also release us from the deadly side-effect of that separation (compulsion to habitually sin), today.

I’m not asking anyone to take my word for this.  I linked to most of the passages I cited and strongly encourage you read them and do your own additional research regarding this topic.

Liar, Liar (1)

ID-100211556

Image courtesy Stuart Miles @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Bible has a lot to say about lies, lying and liars. What they are like, and what their ultimate fate will be (No, it’s not as politicians or lawyers).   I suppose it’s an odd topic to fixate on, but that is what’s been clogging my brain lately, so that is what I shall write about, today 🙂


It’s probably safe to say that most people hate to be lied to.  That is understandable, as lies have a nasty habit of growing and eventually hurting a lot of unsuspecting victims. Broken political promises, marriage vows or declarations of friendship can be particularly devastating to those whose trust has been violated.

Interestingly enough, many people I know seem to despise those they consider to be habitual liars…even when they themselves have been known to manufacture some pretty incredible tales. The Apostle Paul touched on this inconsistently applied measure of “it’s okay when I do it, but if anyone does it to me, it’s not acceptable”  in Romans 1-2, (esp chapter 2). Actually, I’d highly recommend reading both chapters, as I see them as being indispensable to better comprehending this issue.


I think most Christians (and many non-Christians) have at some point been threatened with Hell as a result of telling a lie. While I have a personal compulsion to tell the truth, I have to admit to occasionally swerving dishonorably into the realm of dealing in half-truth, or failing to correct someone else’s misunderstanding.  I think we all do, at times.

Also, I  suppose most of us have known (or will meet) someone who might be described as “unable to tell the truth if it would save his/her life”.  I believe secular psychologists label them as “pathological” in their inclination. This would suggest that they neither have the ability to distinguish the truth nor the interest in knowing what it really is.  As this is a particularly extreme manifestation, the practice of lying stands out to me as worthy of closer examination…especially in light of

Revelation 21:8 (ESV)

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

and

Psalm 116:11 (ESV)

I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.”

Yeah.  Wonderful!  That covers pretty much all of us.  So, what does this even mean?

Well, the beginning of the answer can be located in Romans 1, where the Apostle Paul wrote of a separation from God that occurred because “they” who knew Him did not honor or thank Him. As a result of their bad attitude, God let them go their own way in order to reap the ugly consequences of their choice.

According to Paul, all of the evil deeds (including deceit) which are listed in Romans 1:28-32 are an extended result of being cut off from God’s presence. In other words, we do/say bad things as evidence of having been separated from close communion with our Creator.

BTW, it is interesting to compare the Romans 1 sequence of events to those of Genesis 3,  There, it is clear that the original temptation to “the woman” was to ignore God’s instruction and determine for herself the difference between right and wrong. The specific sin involved was disrespect for authority and ingratitude…just like Paul described in Romans 1:21.

I’m out of time for today, so will  park my little tour bus and let you check the linked passages, if you wish.  Hopefully, will be able to conclude this thought tomorrow.

 

Someone Said (Who’s the Boss?)

ID-100264691

Image courtesy Stuart Miles @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Men must choose to be governed by God or condemn themselves to be ruled by tyrants.”
– William Penn

Deuteronomy 28:47-48 (ESV) Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things,
therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.

*My commentary Happily, God did not intend to leave Israel in this horrifying situation. The disciplinary response was intended to bring the people to a place of repentance for_
1. Disregard for God’s authority and
2. Ingratitude for His goodness to them.
(See v 48, above, Genesis 3 and Romans 1:21)

2 Chronicles 7:13-14, 16 (ESV) When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people,
14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.

Jesus the Christ is the designated Head of the favored household (John 6:27-29)….When we properly acknowledge Him as such, we are made right with God.

Validate Me

ID-100184055

Image courtesy stockimages @FreeDigitalphotos.net

I’m gonna pass on a little lesson I had to learn the hard way…over the course of a lifetime of trial, error and unpleasant experience.

If we are honest, we all want to know that our lives have value and significant purpose. It is an inherent drive of the human creature who was made in the image of God (whose nature is one of loving acceptance among the “persons” of the Godhead)

But if we primarily seek to find this sense of wholeness and belonging through any human relationship:

friendship
sibling connection
significant other /spouse
parent-child interaction

If the source of our identity is mainly found in:

personal compliments
number of social media followers/likes
clothing, body appearance, possessions
physical fitness/health
education
emotional tendency
intellectual capacity
creative talent

or any other common measurement of temporal “success”
…then we will eventually end up in a place of disappointment and frustration.

People are individual and imperfect; and it is both unrealistic and unfair to place the burden of one’s own feeling of security on the head of another person who has their own personality and will one day fail to perform to our preferred relationship specifications.

Save yourself a lot of grief. Don’t rely on the external feedback of other people to provide an accurate picture of your own worth. God has already determined that you are important enough to die…and live…for.

That should be good enough.

Brother (NEEDTOBREATHE)

I  have come to really appreciate the lyrics this group supplies.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:1-2 (ESV)

As believers in Christ, there is a personal “load” (v 5) that each must carry as we are conformed into His image.   But there are also practical ways we can help relieve one another of excess weight in order to facilitate the process.

However,  spiritual discernment is required to know when to personally intervene or when to simply pray that God’s will be done in an individual’s life even as they struggle.

Note: even when correction is necessary, an attitude of gentleness is prescribed.  Not the harsh, judgmental spitefulness that we often see within some very strict religious groups.  If the offending person does not respond favorably, there are further measures that should be taken to correct the problem.  But high-pitched debate, gossip and mean-spirited nit-picking are not among them.